Toronto judge in the clear after court rebuked her for her tardy
A Toronto judge reprimanded by Ontario’s top court for being tardy with her
written decisions has been given the all clear after a review by the Canadian
Judicial Council, which found a now-resolved “medical condition” was to blame.
The review of Superior Court Justice Susanne Goodman’s conduct followed the Ontario
Court of Appeal’s comments last year regarding her failure to give reasons
for acquitting Stanislaw Sliwka of multiple charges of sexual assault, “as well
as an apparent
pattern of inordinate delays,” a news release from the council issued
Susanne Goodman was criticized by the Court of Appeal, which ordered a new trial
in a sex assault case because Goodman failed to provide her reasons for
acquitting the accused man.
The high court ordered Sliwka to stand trial again, calling it “a terrible
result for everyone involved,” Court of Appeal Justice David Doherty wrote
in May 2017.
“The trial judge’s failure to give reasons, despite her repeated promises to
do so, has frustrated the proper administration of justice. Nor is this the
first time that this trial judge’s failure to provide reasons has required
this court to order a new trial. It must be the last time.”
At his retrial this year, Sliwka’s lawyer argued his charges should be
stayed because the delay created by the trial judge’s failure to provide
reasons had denied him his right to a fair trial.
Superior Court Justice Michael Penny rejected the argument and convicted
Sliwka of aggravated assault in July. He returns to court Sept. 11 for a
Chief Justice Michael MacDonald, chair of the judicial council’s Judicial
Conduct Committee, led the review into Goodman and decided to close the
matter after finding she “experienced a medical condition, now resolved,
which was at the root of her difficulties,” the council’s news release said.
Goodman and her chief justice have set out a number of specific and
comprehensive measures to ensure that she discharges all aspects of her
judicial responsibilities in a timely manner, the release said.
“Chief Justice MacDonald notes that the judge now discharges all her
judicial duties in an effective and timely manner.”
In closing the matter, MacDonald cautioned that “a superior court judge must
have the capacity and ability to perform all of the normal judicial
functions that attach to the office. One of these judicial functions is to
be diligent in the delivery of reserved judgments, with reasonable
promptness. Failure to uphold these obligations can have a detrimental
effect on public confidence in the judiciary.”
Given the remedial nature of the judicial conduct process, and taking into
account all the circumstances, MacDonald decided that no further measures
need be taken in this matter.
Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow
her on Twitter: @powellbetsy